Predictably, Four Sisters and a Wedding
is plagued with all the deficiencies and excesses of a movie that caters to the masses. It suffers from an identity crisis, but that identity crisis is its biggest selling point, especially in a country where being all-in-one is a virtue and a movie that offers tears, laughs, and lessons is a prized commodity.
Four Sisters and a Wedding is adamantly a comedy, one that uses unbridled exaggerations and popular wit to earn chuckles. Along the way, it suddenly transforms itself into a drama, with each of the movie's multiple characters getting their fair share of profusely teary expositions. At the end of the movie, everything is wrapped up almost too neatly and easily with just mouthfuls of motherhood statements that render all issues and conflicts resolved.
Also predictably, it is that trait of Four Sisters and a Wedding that would be targeted by detractors. The movie's insistence to remain within the borders of a cinema that is stubbornly safe for the purpose of commercialism is considered its downfall. Because it aspires to appeal to the majority, its story clunks with unnecessary heft and it confuses with its inconsistent mood and temperament. However, to simply dismiss the movie for its intention to comfortably exist in a market that knows fully well what it wants is short-sighted.
The Salazar sisters (Toni Gonzaga, Bea Alonzo, Angel Locsin and Shaina Magdayao) have been living their lives, connected only by occasional phone calls, until the sudden upcoming wedding of their youngest brother (Enchong Dee) forces them to reunite and join forces for what they think is the good of their family. As it turns out, the Bayags, the family which the youngest Salazar is marrying into, are as tactless as they are wealthy, convincing the sisters to plan together to dissuade their beloved brother from continuing the wedding. From a story by Jose Javier Reyes, whose works are almost always inspired by his sharp commentaries on Filipino middle class faults and aspirations, the screenplay written by Vanessa Valdez manages to simplify and meld various Filipino experiences into a package that is amiable enough.
For what it's worth, within what may be considered a genre of Philippine escapist cinema that is mostly produced by mainstream studios, Four Sisters and a Wedding is actually quite remarkable. Its indulgent comedy parts are mostly hilarious, its extensively dramatic climax, moving. Director Cathy Garcia-Molina fulfills the requirements of commercial movie-making, balancing the vulgarity and tactlessness that draws laughter and tears with some semblance of predictability with some elegance and restraint, as may become necessary.
It is the movie's disarming earnestness that is truly admirable. At one point, the sisters suddenly tearfully expose their failures and insecurities, probably in defense of their mostly despicable demeanor throughout the movie. Garcia-Molina forgets all notion of subtlety, allowing her actresses, all of whom are brilliant, to emotionally verbalize regrets and apprehensions that most of us would never dare expose. There are simply no pretensions of depth or insight as it specifically targets the heart, coursing its way to it through its familiar tale whose threads and strands seem to be plucked straight from the sometimes joyful and sometimes painful eccentricities of being Filipino.
(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Attention.)
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